Diane von Fürstenberg, a fashion queen with a Belgian heart
Diane von Fürstenberg may count herself among the most influential fashion designers, but she has never forgotten her homeland. Born in Brussels in 1946, she frequently returns to our country to support the projects that are dear to her, including the Red Star Line project in Antwerp, or to receive honorary awards, the most recent of which made her an honorary citizen of the City of Brussels.
Diane von Fürstenberg, formerly known as Princess Diane de Fürstenberg, was born on 31 December 1946 in Brussels, under the name Diane Simone Michelle Halfin. Her family, who are Jewish of Moldovan and Greek origins, emigrated to Belgium in 1929. At 23, against the wishes of her parents and future parents-in-law, she married Prince Egon von Fürstenberg, who, like her, was passionate about fashion. The couple had two children, but the marriage didn't last. However, after her divorce, the young von Fürstenberg kept the right to bear the name of her ex-husband, which served as a social springboard. She arrived in New York in 1970, and started out in fashion. At the age of 30, she made the cover of Newsweek with her "wrap dress", an emblematic creation which was subsequently exhibited at the Costume Institute of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).
After that, she set up her company Diane von Fürstenberg (DVF) to market her ready-to-wear label for women, as well as her collections of luxury accessories. She gained recognition worldwide. The DVF collections are currently distributed in more than 100 countries, and 1500 points of sale. And her designs have also been worn by various celebrities, including Michelle Obama, the Duchess of Cambridge, Madonna, Jessica Alba, Blake Lively and Jennifer Lopez. According to Forbes magazine, she was the 75th most powerful woman in the world in 2015.
In 2001, the fashion designer married businessman and media mogul Barry Diller, also of Jewish origin, with whom she pledged, in 2010, to donate 50% of her fortune to charitable organisations, via the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation. Her efforts have been amply rewarded. As such, Diane von Fürstenberg received the ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ from the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America), before later becoming its president. She also launched her ‘DVF Award’ to honour women who have inspired other women through their prominence and independence.
As a businesswoman turned philanthropist, she has never forgotten Belgium: as a fashion city, Antwerp left its mark on her, especially with its prestigious fashion academy. As President of the CFDA, she has also given a boost to the career of designer Dries Van Noten, by presenting him with an Award. As an emigrant to the United States, she also helped launch a fund to support the Red Star Line Museum in Antwerp. This museum is dedicated to the history of Belgian migrants who made the Antwerp-North America crossing on board the ships of the Red Star Line between 1873 and 1934.
Belgium has repaid her affections: in 2017, the University of Antwerp awarded her an honorary doctorate for her "extraordinary achievements" in fashion and entrepreneurship, in addition to her intense commitment to women's rights and human rights in general. Not forgetting Brussels, her home city, where she spent the first twelve years of her life, and which recently made her an "Honorary Citizen", on 27 September 2018.